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Defense Base Act Heart Condition, Angina Pectoris, Hypertension: DBA Lawyer Straight Talk

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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S. I want it straight up, with no double talk. I figure you do also. I always use plain English, with no sugarcoating no B.S. lawyer talk, and no double talk - just old fashioned, unsweetened, unvarnished truth - just the way that I would want it.” -Bill Turley 

The First Thing You Must Do 

The first thing you must do is always tell the truth. No matter what it is you are worried about, you must always be honest and never sugarcoat anything to the judge or you attorney. If you do, then you will lose your case. Trust me, I have seen it time and time again. Do not be that person. 

The Next Step

Before you even think about signing any forms from the DBA insurance company, you need to do your research. Order my free book, Win Your Defense Base Act Case: The Ultimate Straight Talk Roadmap To The Medical Treatment and Money You and Your Family Deserve. 

It is full of information that will benefit you with your road to recovery and peace of mind after becoming an injured DBA contractor.  Read the 5 Star Amazon Reviews written by folks like yourself, trust me, you will thank me later. 

Also you can check out my podcast at DBAradio.com where i cover important DBA issues.

If you need help now, give us at call at (619) 234-2833.

Defense Base Act Heart Conditions, Angina Pectoris & Hypertension: DBA Lawyer Straight Talk

Frequent readers know that I keep up on the latest Defense Base Act judges decisions. What I mean is that I try and read Defense Base Act decisions on cases that my office isn’t involved with.  I realize that this is “extra-credit.” But I figure that I can learn when I keep my ear to the railroad track, so to speak.  This helps my clients. And, when I discuss these cases, it helps you understand important DBA principals and issues.

My office gets lots of calls on heart condition cases.  This article is about a recent heart condition case. Even if your case is not similar to this, the principals I discuss here, will probably apply to your case as well.

As always I change the names and some of the details, for privacy purposes. But the important legal principals are preserved so you can learn more about what to expect for your case.  However, keep in mind, I am simplistic in order to achieve clarity.

Difficulty Breathing While Off-Duty in Afghanistan

In this recent case, the  DBA Worker started work for employer  at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in November 2008. He transferred to Camp Phoenix in February 2009. In August 2009, the DBA Worker experienced chest pain and had difficulty breathing while off-duty in the middle of the night. The DBA Worker mentioned this incident to his supervisor, who instructed him to seek medical attention. The DBA  Worker was diagnosed with angina pectoris and hypertension. In other words, he had a heart condition.

The DBA  Worker was sent to the medical facility at Bagram Airfield from which he was transferred to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (Landstuhl) in Germany for additional testing. The DBA  Worker was medically discharged from Landstuhl  with a diagnosis of non-cardiac chest pain and uncontrolled hypertension.

The Worker returned to Afghanistan. The Defense Base Act Employer terminated the Worker soon thereafter and he returned to the United States. The DBA  Worker received treatment from a doctor for hypertension and other medical conditions. The DBA  Worker hired a Defense Base Act Lawyer and filed a Defense Base Act claim for compensation and medical benefits for treatment related to his chest pain incident.

The Defense Base Act Trial

After the usual lengthy delays, the case goes to trial.

In his decision, the administrative law judge found that the Worker established a prima facie case for invocation of the Section 20(a) presumption, based on his chest pain and his employment in Afghanistan, which established that he was working in a “zone of special danger.” The administrative law judge found that employer failed to rebut the presumption, since the opinion of DBA insurance company focused only on the fact that the Worker’s chest pain occurred when the Worker was not working.

The administrative law judge found that the Worker did not establish he was disabled after he was released to work without restrictions. Thus, the administrative law judge denied the claim for compensation. The administrative law judge found that employer is liable for the medical treatment the DBA Worker received at Landstuhl, totaling  a little over $7,000.

The administrative law judge denied any other medical treatment.

The Appeal to the Benefits Review Board

The Defense Base Act worker appealed and challenged the denial of medical care after Landstuhl. Employer appealed challenging that the heart condition was compensable under the Defense Base Act. What you are going to see is that got to trial and getting a decision is usually just a step along the way in pursuing your DBA claim. These cases go on and on.

The Benefits Review Board (BRB), in an unpublished decision, found that since claimant worked in a “zone of special danger” and that the DBA worker established the working conditions element of his prima facie case.

The DBA insurance company argued  the Worker offered no credible evidence that his employment in Afghanistan presented an increased risk for his developing chest pains and that the chest pains were related to his uncontrolled hypertension.

The BRB disagreed. The BRB held the Worker was not required to affirmatively prove that his working conditions in Afghanistan in fact caused his chest pains and/or aggravated his pre-existing hypertension; rather, the DBA Worker need only establish that his employment in Afghanistan, a “zone of special danger,” could have caused or aggravated his physical harm.

Here was the evidence:

(1) that the DBA Worker had pre-existing hypertension;
(2) that the DBA Worker suffered chest pains in Afghanistan;
(3) and that the DBA Worker was diagnosed with angina pectoris and systemic hypertension, constitutes substantial evidence that the DBA Worker’s employment in the “zone of special danger” could have caused his chest pains and/or aggravated his pre-existing hypertension.

Based upon this evidence, the BRB affirmed the administrative law judge’s application of Section 20(a) to presume that the Worker’s hypertension was aggravated and his chest pains were related to his employment in Afghanistan.

The employer also argued that the Worker’s chest pains were not work-related because they did not occur during the process of the Worker’s physical activities associated with work.

This argument was overruled, because  the “zone of special danger” doctrine applies when the injury does not occur during the performance of the worker’s job duties.

Therefore, the BRB affirmed the administrative law judge’s finding that the Worker sustained a work-related injury.

The BRB also overturned the administrative law judge denial of compensation benefits. The BRB held the administrative law judge had should have considered awarding  compensation benefits.

Further, the BRB held the DBA worker  need not be disabled in order to be entitled to medical treatment for his work injury. Thus, the BRB remanded the case back to the trial judge (read: administrative law judge) to determine whether the DBA worker is entitled to continuing medical care for hypertension.

Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. Thanks, Bill Turley

William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
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